JetBlue Cutting Legroom, Doing Away With Free Bags for Some Fliers

(Los Angeles Times/TNS) - Some major changes are coming to America’s favorite budget airline.

JetBlue Airways, which has earned top marks from customers in the low-cost-air-carrier category, revealed plans Wednesday to eliminate free checked bags for its lowest fares and decrease legroom on its Airbus A320 fleet.

Starting early next year, the company announced, customers will have a choice of three different “fare bundle options,” one of which will not include JetBlue’s signature “first bag free” promise. The other two fare options will allow customers to check one and two bags for free, respectively.

Customers can say goodbye to its free wi-fi internet service, too. The company says it plans to start charging for in-flight wi-fi in the second half of 2015.

The airline is also delaying the delivery of 18 new aircraft, scheduled to arrive in 2016, by at least six years. Instead, it will do a “refresh” of its existing fleet.

JetBlue plans to pack in more seats during the redesign, dropping legroom from its current 33-inch pitch to 32 inches, said Tamara Young, a spokeswoman for the airline. The retrofit will also add larger seatback screens and more entertainment options for customers, the company says.

The company says it also plans to ramp up its Mint service, a premium fare that includes lie-flat seats that debuted earlier this year. JetBlue says it will add more flights with the service on the two existing routes between JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO.

JetBlue says it expects the moves to generate more than $400 million for the company annually beginning in 2017. Officials expect the delay on the delivery of new aircraft to reduce the airline’s expenditures by more than $900 million.